By Gustav Anderson
Nov. 4, 2021
Two parents and selfless dedication to their children’s education – that’s all it took to turn a simple dream into a community-wide reality.
After eight years, Maryland-based Whole Kids Academy is still true to its roots. The Spanish immersion preschool now employs 40 teachers and serves 125 families, while still maintaining its primary vision is that children learn best while having fun; this is accomplished through creative activities, healthy diets, and most importantly, engaging teachers.
“Our teachers are really the heart of our school,” says Hannah McNally, the academy’s director. “We can’t be successful if we don’t have really great counselors and teachers and educators there, like on the front lines, connecting with the kids, connecting with the families.”
At the end of the day, these interpersonal connections between stakeholders are the most important part of child education. Within the past year, Whole Kids Academy partnered with Workforce.com to improve its ability to cultivate these relationships by implementing more efficient scheduling and attendance systems.
Using key performance indicators like teacher-student ratios, McNally is better able to measure Whole Kids’ relationship-building success. Proper employee scheduling plays a critical role in this process.
“We have these ratios that are provided to us from the state and we need to make sure we’re in ratio at all times and our schedule really helps with that,” says McNally.
Whole Kids Academy needed a more transparent and unified workforce management system to effectively keep a finger on the pulse of these ratios. For a while, the school was using a word processor and Google calendar for scheduling and leave requests. “I’m really good at keeping a lot of things in my head, but that’s not sustainable,” McNally reflects. This disorganization led to a constant struggle in managing student-teacher ratios.
As a consequence of this disorganization, accountability fell by the wayside. Teachers had the ability to clock in up to a mile away with the old attendance system. This is a common attendance challenge for organizations everywhere, and the time spent on managing these attendance problems was detracting from McNally’s efforts to build feedback loops with teachers.
“My greatest challenge is being able to see all of the different people and help them and meet them and support them … it’s hard when you feel like you’re unable to help someone.”
With their old system, carving out time to conduct teacher one-on-ones or classroom observations often proved difficult. McNally knew she needed to take action to overhaul Whole Kids Academy’s scheduling and attendance capabilities.
The success of child education depends on attendance accountability, proper monitoring of the student-teacher ratio, and relationship building. Whole Kids Academy found a key partner in Workforce.com to grow in these areas. The software maximizes both accountability and communication, while also maintaining enough of a human touch to foster community. Formerly tedious administrative tasks burdening Whole Kids Academy are now completely automated; the resulting time savings allow faculty to better nurture relationships with both students and teachers.
Efficient workforce management is at the core of how Whole Kids Academy operates now. Here are some of the specific areas in which they have seen tangible improvement since partnering with Workforce.com:
Perhaps most importantly, McNally can now easily view and control student-teacher ratios in every classroom. “I think that [Workforce.com] is crucial for child education systems just to allow for everyone to clearly see the schedule, see the ratios,” states McNally. “The schedule is nice and color-coded and can show you how many teachers are in a classroom at one time. So I think that it definitely supports [student-teacher ratio] needs.”
“I love the selfie feature … I think that they’re really fun, but it also increases accountability,” states McNally regarding photo clock-ins. With clock-in tools like photo verification and geo-fencing, McNally can quickly see proof of teachers starting days in the classroom.
McNally creates schedules in mere minutes now, publishing directly to a single cloud-based platform for every teacher to see. “I think that an app like Workforce.com really helps increase organization productivity and accountability,” she says in regard to the intuitive nature of posting and referring to live schedules.
Teachers are regularly asked to briefly review their timesheets to make sure they are being paid correctly. “They’ll log on and see their time cards, they’ll either approve or they’ll say, actually, no, I missed a punch out on this day,” summarizes McNally. Upon approval, she can seamlessly export all timesheets into their payroll system, which Workforce.com has full integration with.
Whole Kids Academy has very specific leave categories to manage for all its teachers. From holidays to sick leave, Workforce.com helps McNally manage all time off hours and requests. “Everything is accrued by the amount of tenure that you have. We needed a system that would easily adapt to all of that. And I think that that’s been a great success of switching to [Workforce.com].”
The ability for all faculty to see when and where teachers are working and if they are assigned to the correct amount of students greatly improves not only ratio tracking, but more importantly, the underlying relationships between students, teachers, and management.
The connection that comes from these healthy interpersonal relationships, both in the workplace and in the community, is something McNally sees as central to the Academy’s roots. “We really value community … I think that connectedness is really what makes our team successful.”
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